Moving house can be an emotionally exhausting time for pets as well as humans, writes Roger Crosthwaite.
Moving house with pets.
When you’re two-thirds of the way through moving day, surrounded by packing crates, covered in dust and thinking maybe it would’ve been better to just stay in the old place, chances are your pet is thinking the same thing.
After years of sniffing, marking, scouting and securing the perimeter of their previous home, they’re suddenly uprooted – without consultation – and dropped into an entirely new and extremely foreign environment. No wonder many pets decide to head back to the old homestead after a move. It must be very disconcerting for them.
Even if they don’t run away, the stress of moving may cause some pets to exhibit unusual behaviour, such as nervous digging, not eating the food they usually love, or hiding and shunning contact. It’s a big thing, this moving business, and people rarely take pets’ reactions into account when they’re making the decision to relocate.
There are several things you can do to make moving less traumatic for your pet and to help them settle in well:
Change the details and phone numbers on your pets’ microchip records as soon as you know your new address.
If you’re moving some distance away, select a new vet and collect any medical records from your old vet.
Make sure your pets’ vaccinations are all up to date.
Check to see whether there are any possible unfamiliar dangers – snakes, ticks, busy roads, aggressive dogs – around your new home.
To help cut the stress of moving day itself, which always involves lots of disruption, noise and strangers coming and going, you could consider a stay for your pets in the local cattery or boarding kennels, or leave them with friends they’re familiar with. You can introduce them to the new place in a day or two, when you’ve managed to rein in the chaos a little. That way, after they arrive at your new home, you’ll have more time to give them some love and affection.
For cats and indoor dogs, it’s best to confine them to one room with familiar toys and bedding for up to a week while they get settled in. Establish where their litter trays are and where they’ll be fed, then do your best to stick to their regular routine.
Before letting your dog out into its new backyard, you will need to check for any possible escape routes, loose gates and holes in fences that might be tempting if they want to make a break for it. Stick to their familiar feeding and walking times and don’t leave them home alone for the first few days, if possible.
It may sound like cheating, but pheromone diffusers such as Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs spread calming scents that imitate animals’ own natural pheromones, and are said to ease anxiety in nervous pets. Both are available online (feliway.com/au, adaptil.com/au) and at pet-supply stores. You could start using them a few days before moving day, then keep it up when they arrive in the new home, to create a sense of continuity.
As soon as you can, take your dog for a walk around their new stomping grounds. Let them sniff anything and everything, and meet and greet the locals, both canine and human. It’s always reassuring to know that you have good neighbours.